There's a first time for everything. My first smile as a baby. Driving my dad's car for the first time after getting my driver's license. My first (legal) drink at the age of 21. And the first time I didn't finish reading a book in time to write a review. I had every intention of finishing Felicia Sulllivan's compelling memoir, The Sky Isn't Visible From Here, by today. I had (on paper) plenty of time to read the entire book. But handling the demands of my new life as a mother of two overshadowed my desire to plow through this engaging work as quickly as I normally would have.
When Delaney was a baby I read tons of books while nursing her. When the chance to read this book came up through The Parent Bloggers Network, I agreed to do it because a.) it was something in which I was very interested and b.) because I thought I'd be tied to the couch for hours on end nursing Waylon and reading tons more books. What I didn't count on was the obvious: this time around it isn't just me and a baby sitting around enjoying literature and the occasional trashy novel (or, as my husband calls it, "chick lit."). This time it's me, a baby and a boisterous, time-sucking preschooler who must be reckoned with at all hours of the day ("Mommy, watch this show with me! Mommy, play PlayDoh with me! Mommy, paint with MEEEEEEEE!"). So, I didn't finish the book on time. But finish it (eventually) I will because if it weren't for the bottoms I have to wipe, the mountains of laundry I have to do and the sleep I need to catch, I wouldn't be able to put this book down.
Reading Sullivan's gripping account of her (to put it mildly) turbulent childhood is unnervingly addictive, much like her mother's unfortunate love of cocaine. Her writing style is smooth, descriptive and engaging. Reading Sky makes me feel as though I'm chatting with Sullivan in a corner of a dark, smoky bar while sipping a glass of cabernet as I hang on her every divulged secret. But don't let that lead you to believe that this book is a bunch of gossipy fun. This is a difficult book to read, especially as a mother. I had a nearly idyllic childhood and I hope to provide my children with the same. Coming from that background left me naiive about the ways of the hard, cruel world some people inhabit. Reading Sullivan's story underscored for me that not every child, although entitled to a wonderful life full of love, gets it. No child should have to endure the neglect, the abuse, the abandonment that Sullivan did: being abused by her mother's boyfriend, Eddie; watching her aunt try to shoot up drugs when she was eight; never knowing the truth about who or where her father was; and, at the tender age of ten, being an expert at taking her mother to the emergency room whenever she OD'ed. Even more amazing than Sullivan's survival of those horrible things is how she's pulled herself together, including battling substance abuse herself, to tell her courageous story.
No I haven't finished this book yet, but you can bet I will. I want to read Sullivan's full story. I need to learn how a woman who endured so much pain was still able to turn her life around and emerge, not only as a functioning human being, but as a stunning literary success.
The Parent Bloggers Network is giving away a copy of The Sky Isn't Visible from Here. Just visit this post and leave a comment to be eligible to win.